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Attribution Impact: What Does It Really Measure?

Volume 6, Issue 11 - November, 2016

Elyse Szostkiewicz, Senior Analyst, Visual IQ

“I made the switch to attributed measurement and my channel now accounts for only 15% of sales, when it accounted for 30% under last click! Does this mean my channel isn’t valuable in driving sales or brand engagement?”

This is a common question that can arise when making the switch from measuring media performance using a last-click approach to using attributed metrics. This change requires marketers to review performance of their channels under an entirely new methodology, which can be difficult to reconcile against the previous last-click method.

Most marketers agree that measuring performance under a last-click methodology is inherently flawed. Channels that are lower in the funnel are given full credit for conversions or brand engagement activities, even if the user engaged with many other channels along their journey. Advanced attribution is about giving credit where credit is due, and many marketers underestimate its power to surprise.

During the transition from one methodology to the other, there is a tendency among marketers to review channel-level changes in credit for conversions or brand engagement activities—this metric is referred to as “attribution impact.” Essentially they are trying to answer the question, “How has channel performance changed from last click to attributed measurement?”

While this comparison can be helpful at first as a way to level-set expectations with key stakeholders on the “new world view” through attribution, it only measures the difference between two measurement approaches, but does not give an accurate representation of channel performance against business goals like leads, sales, CPA, ROI, etc. Since marketing channels are optimized against business goals, attribution impact is not a meaningful metric for marketers to use to determine performance or to make optimization decisions.

Consider the following example:
You are a marketing manager in charge of channel optimization at an e-commerce company. You are currently optimizing your marketing budget against cost per order (CPO), trying to drive the highest volume of orders at the lowest cost. Today you reviewed last-click metrics, which showed the following:

Channel
Media Spend
Last-Click Orders
Last-Click CPO
Display
$600
25
$24
Paid Search
$400
100
$4
Paid Social
$150
45
$3
Video
$300
15
$20


Based on this information, you may consider shifting budget from Display into Paid Search and Paid Social, as those two channels are driving a higher volume of orders at a lower CPO, which is aligned with your business goals.

Now, you layer on attributed metrics to gain more insight into channel performance:

Channel
Media Spend
Last-Click
Orders
Last-Click
CPO
Attributed
Orders
Attributed
CPO
Attribution
Impact
Display
$600
25
$24
70
$9
180%
Paid Search
$400
100
$4
60
$7
-40%
Paid Social
$150
45
$3
30
$5
-33%
Video
$300
15
$20
25
$12
67%


The attribution impact for Paid Search and Paid Social is negative in the above example, showing that these channels were overvalued using last-click metrics. However, when you review performance of CPO with attributed metrics, you can see that Paid Search and Paid Social remain the most efficient channels. The key difference with attributed KPIs is that you now have a much more accurate picture of marketing channel performance upon which to base your optimization decisions.

Reviewing attribution impact on channels can be helpful to understand which channels might have been overvalued or undervalued with last click, but this metric should not be used to evaluate media performance. While a particular channel may see a decrease in credit from last click to attributed measurement, the smart marketer will focus on understanding if that channel drives an efficient CPA, ROI or other desired business outcome from an attribution perspective.

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